Madam Speaker, we are here tonight to talk about the situation in Haiti. Haiti's precarious situation is known the world over.
We can look at some of the headlines that we saw last week.
I grabbed what was in the bin. They are English newspapers.
They say, for example, “Haiti on edge...”; “Haiti fears violence in election wake...”; “Haitians take to the streets...”; “The country is on fire...: Haiti virtually shut down yesterday as citizens took to the streets by the thousands to protest...[and] businesses, schools and the airport were closed”.
However, it is important to North Americans for Haiti to find a solution because of our proximity to that country and because of the number of Haitians living in Canada and the United States. Canada has always been prepared to answer the call when its friends and allies are in need.
There are literally thousands of Canadians who have family ties to Haiti, and these Canadians want us to live up to our reputation and take decisive action to help steer Haiti out of this crisis that threatens to tear the country apart.
These people are my constituents, my neighbours, my friends, and we cannot abandon them.
From the introduction of peacekeeping on the world stage by Lester Pearson to the introduction of the responsibility to protect doctrine in the UN by Paul Martin, Canada has always led when crisis threatened to tear lives apart. We invented peacekeeping and we invented the responsibility to protect doctrine; and since we have such a close relationship with Haiti, strengthened by bonds of family and friendship, Canada must rally the world to come together and lift Haiti out of the mire it is currently stuck in.
Regardless of party affiliation, Canadian governments have always stood for peace, justice, strong moral principles and a vigorous engagement in world affairs. As a Liberal who greatly admires the accomplishments of leaders such as Pearson, Trudeau, Chrétien and Martin, leaders who took the principles of their predecessors and built upon them with new ideas and initiatives, I know that Canada's role in Haiti should be as an unwavering partner who will propose constructive ideas, back up our promises and convince other nations to join us in fighting the good fight.
We need our actions to make a difference. We must succeed; we cannot afford to fail. The future and the life of an entire generation of people hangs in the balance and we cannot fail them.
The word most often used to describe the Haitian population is “resilience”. History has proven that. Many say that Haiti has just had a string of bad luck. Others say that it is cultural, and others say it is a curse. One thing is for sure, Haitians are fighters and they need our help now more than ever to continue fighting.
In my constituency, I see how proud Haitian Canadians are of their culture and heritage, and they are all proud Canadians. But when it comes to the Haitian community, like most ethnic communities, agreement on the nature of the problems they face, never mind the solutions, are never unanimous.
We had two round tables in the span of a few months with the Haitian community in Saint-Michel, in the east end of Montreal, right after the earthquake. Many problems were highlighted, and of course, there were differences in analyzing just the problems. Right away, there were differences along political lines. We also had gender differences: the women blamed it on the men, and the men obviously blamed it on the women. There were generational differences, where the young blamed it on the old and the old blamed it on the young. Finally, there were also people who blamed it on the fact that they had left 30 years ago or they had just left five years ago, and there were differences from that perspective.
Solutions proposed were broken down between short term and long term. Short-term problems immediately following the earthquake were simply finding shelter and food for those most in need. Long-term solutions dealt with infrastructure for such things as roads, bridges, water and sewage; but the other infrastructure problem that needed to be dealt with was the government, because citizens everywhere in the world rely on their government to some degree.
We should look around us in Canada. Everyday services are delivered. We have health care and simple things such as garbage collection. If we look outside, it is snowing in Ottawa. We have snow removal, police services, post office, licences, and so on. Canadians may complain about the cost or the delivery of those services, but even the Conservatives, who despise government, agree that we need government to deliver some services.
In Canada, we debate the amount of services that the government should deliver. In Haiti, the debate is which government can actually provide the minimal amount of services. We are talking about a government that cannot deliver the basic services. We are talking about a government where, when individuals go to get their birth certificate, it is not available. When they try to get their passport, there is nobody at the counter. When they try to mail a letter, they cannot get a postage stamp. When they go to make a deposit, they cannot find a bank that is open. When they try to withdrawal money at a bank, there is no money in the bank.
Those are basic services. Canada is a stable, successful democracy with a good track record of providing essential services to the population, regardless of which political party is in power. Today we are debating how we, as a successful and prosperous country, can assist Haiti in taking steps toward becoming a successful and prosperous country.
Haitians' political history is full of traumatic upheavals. Regime after regime in Haiti engaged in grossly corrupt activities that put the ambitions of those in power before the needs of the people. This has led to Haiti being underdeveloped, but what is more troubling is that this has diminished the ability of any political force to bring about the change necessary to put Haiti on a path towards sustainable development.
There needs to be a shift in Haiti's political culture to ensure that the old ways of doing business that have failed are replaced by new good practices that make it possible for Haiti to govern itself successfully and democratically.
To succeed in its reconstruction effort, Haiti needs an overhaul that brings stability, rule of law and a trust in its political system. We can see clearly in the protests taking place daily that there is no trust between Haiti's democratic institutions and her people.
Trust must be established so that any political force that forms a government after an election has the moral authority to actually lead the country. People will not follow a government that they view as illegitimate. Until legitimacy is woven into the Haitian political fabric, there can be no lasting peace or progress.
There is tremendous desire in Haiti to rebuild and move forward. The spirit of the Haitian people is not in question. What is required right now is to stop the chaos that threatens to tear Haiti apart. This cannot be done without the world being involved.
What is needed now is action to shore up Haiti's democracy and aid. Proper democratic institutions are not built overnight, but they are necessary to create a climate where a state can govern itself successfully, develop its resources, deliver services and change governments in a stable and orderly fashion.
Right now, Haitians are divided and angry because they feel that their democratic institutions are illegitimate. This feeling is the wound that must be closed if Haiti is to survive. Until that wound is closed, aid must flow to Haiti. Aid is a bandage, not a solution, but the bleeding must stop before the wound can be stitched.
Food, clean water, medicine, money, clothing and shelter, everything and anything at this point can contribute to reducing the suffering that is currently ravaging Haiti. The rebuilding process begins with aid. If aid can be delivered fairly and efficiently, it can create the calm space and good will between the Haitian people, the Haitian government and the international community, which is necessary to begin tackling more systemic problems.
Success breeds success. We need to get aid right and use that momentum to tackle the deeper issues I mentioned, and keep doing this until Haiti is ready to stand on her own two feet.
Given Canada's deep ties to Haiti, I ask the government to do whatever it can to assist Haiti by collaborating with our partners to provide lifesaving aid to Haiti during this difficult time and to do the work with the Haitian people and the international community to build democratic institutions in Haiti that work.